Weekly Bang-e-sahar Saturday, April 19—25, 2008
THE leadership of Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in Gilgit-Baltistan has decided to form a twelve-member delegation which will discuss the constitutional and other issues of the region with the high-ups of the coalition government in Islamabad. The delegation will analyze the sixty-year-old deprivations in the light of the changing international scenario and will present its recommendations regarding the political future of the region to the government. The right to rule will be given top priority in the recommendations.
This is a right decision albeit a belated one, because for the first time federalist or pro-centrist parties of Gilgit-Baltistan have also spoken out for the constitutional status of the region. Not only this, they have also decided to make joint efforts to achieve their agenda. Before taking up the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan at the national or international levels, it is necessary for the local leaders to formulate a common agenda and visualize their goals as the parties working for rights of the region have always lacked common ground on which to stand. This is also true for the various national political parties operating in Gilgit-Baltistan to have a clear-cut vision about the issues and their solution. Some parties have been demanding complete autonomy for the region while others are asking for a provincial setup. Not to mention those who have been asking for an Azad Kashmir type of setup. It is not surprising that there are also some other parties that are all for affiliation with Azad Kashmir.
We recommend that the pro-federal political parties should include local people in the delegation. As far as right of self-rule is concerned, a single meeting will not materialize the demand to our satisfaction. We should convince ourselves that even those sitting in the corridors of power have no solution to our depravations and problems, as Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed region. Hence, instead of looking towards others, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan should themselves have to decide about their future. It id time for Pakistan should fulfill its obligations in accordance with the resolution of the UNCIP by withdrawing its military and civilian personnel from Gilgit-Baltistan and ending rampant violations of human rights in the region.
The sixty-year history itself speaks of the discriminatory attitude meted out to this region by successive Pakistani governments and its beaurocracy. No serious steps were taken to ensure provision of basic rights to the people of the region. Slogans of Islam and Pakistan were raised amid sectarian strife fuelled by state agencies to give the impression that the people of this region are not at all capable of coping with the local issues.
The 21st century is regarded as the era of democracy and human rights but even today a region of immense geographic importance is literally chained. Rampant violations of human rights in Gilgit-Baltistan have also pricked the conscience of international human rights organizations, European Parliament and other democratic nations of the world who have started raising the issue at various forums of the world.
How long the people of the region would be denied their basic rights? With the formation of a new government in Islamabad, Pakistan has got the last opportunity to resolve the issue. The government in the centre should accept the self-rule right of the region wholeheartedly. The international community also expects that Pakistan will withdraw its military and civil beaucracy from the region in accordance with the UNICP resolution. Any delay in this regard will prove devastating not only for the centre but also for the local people. Besides other parities involved in the Kashmir dispute will also suffer. Last but not the least, the government should give due importance to and accept the forthcoming demands and recommendations of the delegations of Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) from the region.
Under the current circumstances, the only possibility of a peaceful transfer of power to the area lies in making the existing assembly a self-autonomous body with all powers to formulate laws and take decisions independently without any dictation from the centre.